According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online (http://www.ldoceonline.com/), "overlap" is defined as follows: "if two or more things overlap, part of one thing covers part of another thing"

Can we say that the two plates completely overlap. I wonder whether using "overlap" in combination with words, such as completely and exactly, that have meanings contradicting the meaning (i.e., part) of "overlap" is correct.

  • Overlap used on its own implies that two (or more) things partially overlap, hence the qualifier completely.
    – Mick
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 14:30
  • 2
    One thing could completely overlap another, yes, although more common usage would be to say that one covers the other. If one thing exactly overlaps another with no excess, you may want to be more precise, and say that their outlines are identical.
    – Davo
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 14:37
  • Instead of completely use totally. It's informal though as in I'm telling you man; they totally made out last night. It assures that overlap really happened. Use cover or coat (depending on your context).
    – Yuri
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 18:53
  • If you believe that the dictionary definition is wrong, you should add an example showing that to your question.
    – user3169
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 21:09

2 Answers 2


"Overlap" by itself is non-specific. The objects can be partially overlapping, or completely overlapping. If it's important you would have to ask the person to clarify which they mean.

I don't think the dictionary is wrong, but it is a little misleading. To be clear the definition should be "part or all of one object covers another object", but technically "part of" something could mean "all of" it. Technically.

If you want to use it as a negative you can say that two objects "do not overlap".


Overlap - player runs around a teammate and ahead of the ball for a pass into space (outside defender makes a run around the wide midfielder) LINK

In this example the football player actually overlaps -- passes the other runner.

However outside of a sport definition, you need to qualify the amount of overlap. The pages must overlap by 2 cm. If you wish to cover the first page, you should say that.

  • Can anyone explain the downvote? What am I getting wrong? Was it bringing in the sports reference? It was what immediately came to mind when I saw the word overlap.
    – WRX
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 16:22

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